A Few Questions I’m Constantly Thinking About

Some Christians are hesitant about going back to the classical authors and theorists for fear of becoming ancient pagans. I understand that hesitation, but have had to ask myself some tough questions.

Especially this: Where do we get our education practices?

Where is the bell in the Bible? Where the classroom? emphasis on fun/entertainment? recess? certification? accreditation?

Where do these things come from? What about our teaching methods?

My argument is simply that the classical educators were much more Biblical than most Christian schools.

Here’s another question: is education by its nature feudal, capitalistic, socialistic or something else? Why?

And here’s one specifically for classical educators: are we exaggerating the power of “associative” theories of memory in the grammar stage and are we using behavioral approaches to teaching and epistemology (theories of knowledge)?

Important questions, I think.  What do you think?

Teaching Bible in A Christian Classical School

When you engage in a battle, the enemy is constantly trying to direct your energies toward things other than your objective. Unfortunately, those distractions can’t be ignored.

That’s where we stand on curriculum in our day. We are so deeply immersed in a Darwinian mode of thinking (of course, it is called Progressivism) that going back to a Christian curriculum is extraordinarily challenging.

I’ve spend a lot of time trying to figure this out and have some ideas, but let me start with this suggestion (and forgive me if I’m redundant, but as I like to tell my students, I’m a teacher, I get paid to repeat myself):

Start with the ideas you want your students to understand. Make a list of 12 of them at a rather high level of generalization. For example, you want them to understand grace, justice, purity, etc.

Then add some that are more specific to the Christian tradition/doctrine: The two natures of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the church, etc.

Once those are identified, you can start working out the content and skills, and here you need to be agonizingly obvious and “unspecialized.” For example, under skills, you are going to want your students to learn how to read closely.

For content, you are going to want to choose specific stories that you’ll focus on as a school. These should be stories that 1. Embody the ideas you have listed above, and two, serve to order the stories you won’t be touching on in school.

Examples of the former would be The Good Samaritan as a type of grace, David and Goliath as a type of Faith, and so on.

Examples of the latter would be Moses leading the children across the Red Sea, which contains the whole Old and New Testaments in that one act.

The good news is that a lot of Bible stories have that quality to them. Be careful, therefore, not to try to get a one to one correspondence between idea and story. Each story will contain many ideas and each idea will be contained in many stories. That’s why your teachers should be free to teach a lot of stories and let the stories tell themselves.  

Another ordering story would be Abraham offering up Isaac.

You’ll also want to provide a structure for the narrative so the kids know where to place the stories. For that, begin by having them memorize the books of the Bible.

Then help them learn the different kinds of book (Pentateuch, history, wisdom, prophecy).

Then give them some sort of chant for the main events, something like the Walk-thru-The-Bible people do.

Creation-fall-flood-Babel-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Egypt-Exodus-Wanderings-Judges-Kings and Prophets-Israel to Assyria-Judah to Babylon-Return under Persia-Greek Kingdoms-Roman Empire-Christ-Apostles-Church-Return.

Something like that, put to a nice rhythmic chant that the whole school can do from time to time.

Of course, there is more than just story in the Bible.

Under content, therefore, I would urge you to teach the tabernacle and the Levitical sacrifices. The entire New Testament is laid out in those sacrifices and in the priesthood.

This is the place for hands on projects. Have them make a tabernacle somewhere on the school grounds. But don’t have one class make a permanent one. Each class should do it at some point (probably around 5th or 6th grade).

What you want to avoid in Bible class is replacing the Bible with a Bible curriculum where some childhood psychologist expert has determined a better way to deliver the stories than God could come up with. They will be totally content-driven 99 out of 100 times.

We want our children contemplating the Bible, not merely remembering it with their heads.